8 of the Best Beach Vacations in the U.S. (Plus Tips to Make It Affordable)
Americans are obsessed with beach vacations. More Americans choose beach vacations over any other kind of getaway, whether to a beach resort on a tropical island or camping at a nearby state park. According to Statista, beach vacations are the most popular type of getaway for U.S. adults. Just over half (52%) of respondents stated it was their favorite type of vacation.
Of course, it helps that over 50% of the U.S. population lives within 50 miles of the coast. Being able to drive to your vacation destination versus purchasing airline tickets means almost everyone can plan a vacation to the beach. What makes a beach vacation so appealing? For starters, it’s one of the most versatile trips you can take. You can book parasailing, jet skiing, or scuba diving excursions if you’re into high adventures.
Are you more into lounging on the beach with a good book in hand? A trip to the beach is all but synonymous with relaxation. Whether you’re traveling solo, as a couple, or as a family with kids, there are beach locations in the United States that will fit your agenda perfectly. Pack your beach bags and get ready to go!
What Options Make a Beach Location Popular
According to The United States Lifesaving Association, Americans make more than 400 million visits to the beach every year. Some beaches are more popular than others, and for good reason — they offer all the amenities needed to make vacation planning easy.
The best locations will include:
- Plenty of lodging to choose from
- Popular choices for groceries or dining
- Clean beaches
- Options for water excursions
There are other factors to consider as well, depending on your needs. Will you have your own vehicle or need public transportation? Are you looking for a quiet beach or do you like lots of activities going on? Some beaches are sandy while some are rocky — which one do you prefer?
1. Panama City Beach, Florida
Nearly 19 million people visit Panama City Beach annually, making it one of the most popular beaches in the U.S.
This family-friendly Florida beach location is perfect for finding a spot to relax and play with the family. Panama City Beach also offers activities including fishing, snorkeling, scuba diving, jetskiing, and parasailing. Star Gazing is also popular when the sun goes down.
2. St. Petersburg, Florida
“St. Pete’s Beach” is located 20 minutes from St. Petersburg, Florida. This barrier island is the perfect combination of laid-back yet ready-for-action. With 15 million visitors each year, St. Pete’s Beach has become known as one of the best vacation spots in America.
Popular water activities include kayaking, beach volleyball, parasailing, paddleboarding, and sunset cruises. If you like to snorkel, it’s one of the most popular things to do at St. Pete’s Beach.
Stroll through the 50 shops located at John’s Pass Village & Boardwalk. You’ll find plenty of family entertainment and good dining options on the island. Along with its award-winning beaches, you’ll also find this area is a cultural hot spot with several top-notch museums open to the public.
3. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Myrtle Beach is packed with attractions that are especially popular with young families, such as an old-fashioned Ferris wheel, an amusement park, and 60 miles of coastline to enjoy. Over 11 million people visit this beach in South Carolina each year. Myrtle Beach vacation rentals are in high demand, making it essential to book ahead of time. You may also be surprised to learn that Myrtle Beach is a golfer’s mecca.
For those craving a quieter beach experience, there are plenty of opportunities to get away from the crowds. Myrtle Beach is the perfect place to enjoy beautiful sunrises over the Atlantic Ocean, watch for wildlife, and relax on the sandy beaches in peace.
Bonus – its one of the few driveable destinations on this list! It is a vacation spot within one day’s drive for 50% or more of Americans.
4. Waikiki Beach, Oahu
Several Hawaiian beaches top the list, including Waikiki Beach in Oahu. This world-class beach stretches for two miles and has everything you’ll need for a fun-filled vacation in a tropical oasis including tons of food options.
Over 10 million people visit Waikiki each year. Whether you spend your time enjoying the white sand beach or plan to get out and explore the island, you’ll find plenty of things to do on Oahu. Waikiki Beach is a popular place to book a family vacation, but it’s equally popular as a honeymoon or romantic getaway.
Waikiki gets especially crowded around spring break early summer, Thanksgiving and Christmas, so you may want to avoid those times if you can.
Looking at resorts? Check out Hilton Hawaiian Village: The Ultimate Family Resort On The Best Part of Waikiki Beach
5. Venice Beach, California
Not to be left out, the West Coast also offers some phenomenal beach locations. Venice Beach, in particular, sits just outside Los Angeles and receives over 10 million annual visitors. Its lively scene draws an eclectic crowd, including part Bohemian, part street performer, and part people-watcher.
No matter which group you fit into, Venice Beach also offers gorgeous sand, beautiful sunsets, and miles of canals. It also has a pedestrian promenade with plenty of food options for everyone.
Most Affordable Beach Vacations in the U.S.
While some beach locations are expensive vacations, some are less expensive. There are also ways to save money, allowing you to stay at the beach of your choice.
Eric Simonson, CFP and CEO of Abundo Wealth, offers this advice for saving money on beach rentals. “If you are looking for a beach vacation but not quite ready to pay resort prices, consider a vacation rental nearby. It’s possible to walk to the beach and rent beach equipment while you are there. This will save you the resort fees and price markup associated with staying at the resort.”
Or you could book a resort condo from a timeshare owner and save 25 to 50% off the same rooms at Hilton, Marriott, Wyndham, Westin and other global hotel chains.
Interested in learning more? Check out: 7 Websites That Can Save You $1,000 or More on Resort Bookings
If you’re dreaming of a beach getaway, but need to keep costs down, here are some of the cheapest beach vacations in the U.S.
6. South Padre Island, Texas
Located on the southern tip of Texas, this barrier island is one of the only tropical islands in the United States. Because it’s easy to travel to by car, South Padre Island is also one of the most popular vacation destinations in Northern America.
Although it’s largely a party scene during spring break season, the weather is mild enough throughout the year to keep it at the top of the list. Activities include water parks, fishing, swimming, kiteboarding, sunset sailing, and dolphin watching. There is also a sea turtle sanctuary that welcomes visitors.
Unlike many other tropical islands, you can book a beachfront resort for a reasonable price. If you’re within driving distance, you can avoid the airfare, which will save you even more money. South Padre Island has everything you need for a vacation in paradise.
7. Florida Panhandle, Florida
It doesn’t get any more classic than heading to Florida for a family getaway. With roughly 200 miles of coastline, you can still find great deals on beach rentals in this area.
With its almost year-round warm temperatures, beautiful emerald waters, and accessible towns, the Florida Panhandle is an excellent option for a cheap beach vacation in the U.S.
Consider staying in Destin, St. Andrews, or Grayton Beach to find oceanfront property at a great price. You’ll be able to do all the same beach activities offered in the pricier locations, so don’t worry about missing out on anything on your vacation.
Check out: 8 Things To Do In Madeira Beach Florida (a Gulf Coast Gem)
8. Virginia Beach, Virginia
Virginia Beach is another family-friendly option with a reputation for being less expensive than other beach resorts or destinations. If you’re up for camping or have an RV, you can save even more money by staying at First Landing State Park.
There are plenty of beachfront hotels along the three-mile Virginia Beach strip. Still, if you’re willing to get further out (or camp at the park), you’ll save money while enjoying these beautiful beaches.
Along with all the usual water activities, there is also a boardwalk that visitors enjoy. It consists of two cement paths parallel to one another and is open 24 hours a day, year-round. If nightlife is important to you, you’ll find lots going on in the Virginia Beach area.
Luxury Beach Vacations and All Inclusive Resorts
Of course, not all beach vacations are created equally, and if you have the budget, there are plenty of luxury beach resorts to choose from. Each beach location listed offers a range of hotels and resorts, from budget-friendly to all-inclusive vacation packages.
According to Statista, all-inclusive beach vacations are the second most popular type of vacation for U.S. adults, with 33 percent of respondents stating it was one of their favorite types of vacation.
Some of the best family resorts are in Mexico and the Caribbean. For example, the Riu Palace Pacifico in Puerto Vallarta is an all inclusive resort that offers everything needed for fantastic family vacations. Want to take your kids on a Mexico vacation? This resort also includes a kids club to entertain the little ones during the day.
If an upscale or all inclusive resort is on your list but not in your budget, here are some suggestions for ways you can afford it.
Sign Up for a Branded Credit Card
When you sign up for a branded credit card such as World of Hyatt or Marriott, you can also sign up for their loyalty program.
Eric Simonson offers this advice: “If you know you want to go to a resort, consider applying for that hotel’s branded credit card ahead of time. You’ll often get extra perks to make your stay more enjoyable. These perks could include waived resort fees, late check-out, or a room upgrade! You’ll also be able to use the points you accrue towards free nights.”
Use Credit Card Points to Pay for Your Hotel and Flights
In addition to the extra perks you can get when you sign up for a hotel’s loyalty program, you can use credit points to pay for all or part of your flight and hotel.
One of the easiest ways to accumulate a large number of points quickly is to sign up for a new credit card and earn the signup bonus offered. You can then use those points to cover your expenses. If that luxury resort in Maui is currently out of your budget, you can make it happen by earning the points needed to pay for it instead.
This post originally appeared on Hello Sensible.
Featured Image Credit: Visit Florida.